Radio is rubbish at marketing itself - except for this station

Saturday 08 April, 2017

Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland

I’m fascinated by marketing for radio stations.

I used to write radio commercials for a living, for around eight years. I’ve sat with clients and honed their message to make sure it works, and works well.

I’d end up being relatively firm with clients. I’d end up hearing myself saying: It’s not enough to promote that you offer “a great selection of beds all under one roof”. So does every other bed store out there. What reason do they have to choose you, Mr Client?

Radio stations have some pretty good marketing professionals working with them: but, oddly, they’re never allowed to actually work on the radio station marketing itself.

Instead, we get billboards with a logo and the same positioning statement that’s used on-air - something like: “Placename’s Better Music Mix! 98.5 Badger FM”

That kind of thing works on-air. Listeners are aware of what type of music you play because they’re already listening. Hearing that it’s a ‘better music mix’ reinforces their choice of station, and is a compliment on their music taste.

But it doesn’t work too well on a billboard. You can’t hear the music, so it communicates virtually nothing. But more crucially: it doesn’t say what’s different about the station. Why someone should bother listening. After all, a much better mix is available from my Spotify account.

Advertising for radio in Australia appears, mostly, to be a logo accompanying a picture of some breakfast hosts that I don’t recognise and that are out of the target demo of the radio station in the first place. “Dingo, Boring and Miss Giggles at breakfast!” is the brand promise, accompanied by an old bloke in a loud shirt, a giggly woman and the straight guy who presses the buttons and tells the time. I’m sure it helps with brand awareness and reminder to fill in the listening diary, but not sure it delivers many new listeners.

UK radio advertising is sometimes a little too clever, in a multi-platform radio market. Freed of the need to push frequencies, a logo saying “Heart” isn’t actually very clear to non-listeners that it’s a radio station. I shouldn’t look at an ad and have to work out what it’s for.

So it was interesting seeing this ad, in a newspaper, for Singapore’s Kiss 92. I think they’ve got it pretty much spot on:

  • Pride of place goes to two in-demo listeners (with ages). One’s an ‘executive’ (aspirational). One’s demonstrating the family-friendliness of this station. Both are great illustrative role models.   
  • The main listener says “I love Kiss 92” - not just ‘like’ but ‘love’ - “because they bring me joy”. No music positioning statement; instead, a clear brand position that coincides with our own relationship with the radio - it lifts our mood
  • The breakfast hosts are pictured, most of whom look in-demo as well. But they’re an incidental part of this ad. The listeners get top billing.
  •  Beneath, lots of social connections and ways to contact the station. Not sure you need all of these here, but they offer a different way of tuning in rather than just the frequency.
  •  The station logo is there, but not the most important thing. (A logo is rarely important for radio, given you don’t see it when you tune in).

The old scriptwriter’s brief that I used to use has never been more useful here - “Who are we talking to, what do we want them to do, and why should they do it?”... perhaps it’s time for some radio stations to re-evaluate their marketing with these basic points.
 

About The Author

James Cridland is a radio futurologist: a writer, speaker and consultant on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business across the world.

A former radio presenter, James has worked for stations and companies across the world, including the original Virgin Radio in London, the BBC, Futuri Media, Imagination Technologies and Seven Network. He has judged many industry awards, including the CBAA, ABC Local Radio, RAIN and the UK's ARIAS.

He writes for publications across the world, and runs media.info the worldwide media information website. He also runs a free weekly newsletter with news of radio's future.  

British by birth, James lives in Brisbane, QLD and is a fan of craft beer.

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